A Sermon

[The following is a sermon by Prof. Chad Bird of the Fort Wayne seminary.]

SERMON ON JOHN 1:29-41
2ND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY (1/16/05)
THE REV. PROF. CHAD L. BIRD
SHEPHERD OF THE CITY, FORT WAYNE, IN

Last night, how many men shoved a blade or shot a bullet into the back of some passerby for a few measly bucks? How many sixteen-year-olds conceived babies that will soon fall prey to the abortionist’s knife? How many children finally fell asleep after listening to the screams of their bruised and battered mothers? How many lonely wives tossed and turned, fumed and wept, wondering in whose arms their absent husband lay? How many porn sites were visited last night, how many families ripped apart, how many put the bottle to their head and pulled the trigger?

And worse yet, how many of you really care? After all, you have your own problems and you get tired of hearing about the problems of others. You lose sleep over your dwindling bank account but yawn over the news report of a hundred people murdered. Is it not true? We throw our pity-parties for the slightest amount of suffering and our temper-tantrums when life just doesn’t go our way. We want families without problems, jobs without stress, old age without arthritis, roses without thorns.

Behold, the sin of the world, that takes away the Lamb of God! Behold your cold nails of lovelessness that pierce His wrists, your thorns of apathy that worm their way into His skull, your lashes of lust that plow crimson furrows upon His back. Behold, the sin of the world-your own sin-that takes away the Lamb of God and hands Him over to the butcher’s blade.

But do not behold Him as One who wants your pity. He doesn’t desire your sympathy; He simply desires you, your repentance, your trust. That is why He came. He came down from heaven for every person on earth. For the thief and murderer, abortionist and adulterer, holier-than-thous, and all you who wag your fingers at them. None are so bad that He did not die for them, none so good that they do not need Him. For all have sinned and fallen long into the gory pit of sin.

So all, Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Let your eyes follow the pointing finger of John the Baptist, singling out the One who comes as the sole sheep of the Father’s flock. He is the, the only Lamb of God. He is the Sacrifice appointed from time immemorial. When our first parents transgressed, there stood the Lamb, between the wrath of the Judge and the all-too-guilty sinners, ready to take away the sin of the world. When Cain murdered, Noah got drunk, Moses got mad, and David got Bathsheba, there stood the Lamb, His fleece as white as snow, ready to be reddened to take away the sin of the world. Then He came. Mary had a little Lamb.

John points Him out. He is the Lamb upon whom the Spirit lands like a dove. Why like a dove? Why not a sparrow or cardinal or eagle? For in the days of Noah, when the waters of the flood had receded, the dove became a preacher. He preached the end of the outpouring of divine wrath, the end of punishment, and the beginning of a new life. The sermon of the dove was a homily of peace-peace between God and men, peace in the midst of waters.

So on the Lamb of God the feathered Spirit lands and remains. For when the Lamb stands in the waters of the Jordan River a new Flood has come, like unto but greater than the one in Noah’s day. For Jesus is the stand-in for all humanity. In Him is the murderer, pervert, liar, and cheat; you are in Him. One for all. And when John pours the baptismal flood over His head, He is a sponge, soaking up divine wrath for you. In Him is the end of punishment. In Him is the beginning of a new life. He is the Lamb of God who takes up the place of the world in the Jordan flood; takes in your guilt and shame and death; and takes it all away. All this that He might take you, cleansed and made alive, to His Father in heaven. So the Spirit dove lights upon this Lamb. That you might know peace and safety are found only in Him. That you might actually have that peace and safety by being baptized in His flesh and blood.

He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, that takes away your sin. And if He takes it away, it is no longer yours but His. Your sins, whatever they be, belong no longer to but to Jesus. Your apathy is now His. Your lies are now His. Your pettiness or your prostitution; your murdering or your murmuring. It matters not. They no longer are your property. They have transferred ownership. Jesus has owned up to them. He has taken them away. And into your empty hands He has put peace, righteousness, goodness, grace. All the good He has is yours for all the bad you had is His.

He has done it. He does care. He was ready and willing to be taken away by the sin of the world that He might take away your sin in the process. Behold the Lamb of God.

Please send private coorespondence to david.h.petersen@att.net

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[Timotheos]

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30 thoughts on “A Sermon

  1. So, when did Lutheran “sermons” become five to seven minute long little talks?

    Kind of hard to understand how Lutherans are in fact honoring the Lutheran Confessions standard of the sermon as the chief aspect of the Divine Service and reduce the sermon to only seven minutes long.

  2. Don’t quite understand what you mean with the time span, Defensor. I thought the proper distinction of Law and Gospel in any length of sermon was the point. The moment one says a sermon must be such & such length, isn’t that a return to Law?

  3. My wife and I heard Pr. Chad Bird at a Vocation Seminar at Trinity Ev. LCMS in Norman, Oklahoma shortly before he went to cemetary. He also spoke at Christ Ev. Lutheran in Hutchinson, Kansas, “Lectures on Lutheranism – Hymnody” a year or two(?) before that. He is always a treat to hear from – a true grandmaster of Kung Fu.

  4. Personally, I think this sermon qualifies as more than a “little talk.” And I wasn’t aware that God’s Word needed a certain amount of time to “work.”
    Of course, if your parishioners are accustomed to hour-long “real sermons,” no one’s stopping you.

    Tim

  5. This is one of the best sermons I’ve read in a long time. I’m not a hermeneutics expert – I’m not even sure I can spell it – but I think the strength of this sermon is that it isn’t wordy. It’s straight to the point, hitting hard with the law and mopping it up with the gospel. Beautiful.

  6. So do I! Enough with the fuzzy 5 minute introduction story about Jill the cat and how her walking on the limbs of a tree better helps me to understand my walk with Jesus, or whatever. How many 15 minute sermons contain no Word whatsoever? This one cut, and then it healed. Lovely.

    And kudos to Chaz. Amen. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

  7. Chaz, your opinion might be popular amongst the Hochkirche crowd, but it is not Lutheran.

    Since when is the preaching of God’s Word not the main part of the Divine Service? On what Scripture or Confessional evidence do you base your opinion?

    Martin Luther, on the other hand, did believe the oral proclamation of the Word was the chief and most important part of the service. Notice I have not suggested, nor would I, that the Sacrament of the Altar should not be offered at each Divine Service, but it flows from the oral proclamation.

    And pity the congregation whose pastor thinks that seven minutes homilies is actually fulfilling his duty as an occupant of the ….Predigtamt…the PREACHING office.

    And where is the diligently urging to good works that the Lutheran Confessions insist on? See FC SD Article on the Third Use of the Law.

  8. Defensor,
    This is just one sermon. Must a sermon always include a “justification part” and then a “sanctification part”?
    Actually, I’m pretty sure Luther felt that the Sacrament was the primary thing, and that without the Sacrament, the service was not the Divine Service. I will look for something to back that up. Do you have some evidence from Luther’s writings where he defends the sermon as the “most important” part? (Of course, Luther probably defended both the sermon and the Sacrament in various places as necessary to the Divine Service.)
    The question is, I suppose, which is more important? Perhaps neither; it may be (I think it is) that they require each other.

    Tim

  9. LOL Rob.

    I just find it incredibly funny that the argument is over time and not over content. Can we say “Mishnah” anyone? LOL

    Forgive my ignorance of german terms, Defensor, but you’ll have to explain Hochkirsche to me.

    othniel

  10. It is a dramatic example of the impoverishment of Lutheran seminary studies these days, specifically the lack of required reading of Luther, that any Lutheran seminarian or worse yet, pastor, would dare even to suggest that the preaching of the Word was not in Luther’s understanding of theology THE main thing in the worship service. The Supper clearly flows from the preached Word and is NOT the “main thing” in the Christian worship service. It is the PREACHED WORD, the oral proclamation.

    Where do LCMS seminarians or pastors get such ideas that it is any other way?

    The thought that there would be even a minor offic e without the preached word was a concept foreign to Martin Luther. Try reading LW volume 53 for beginniners. Read Martin Brecht’s masterful biography for a guided tour of Luther’s work.

    The closer to Luther, the better the theologian.

  11. Why I’m getting involved in this really beyond me… Sorry for the long post, but it’s lunch time.

    With all due respect to each person who reads this blog site:

    First of all, does any serious person really care about the length of a sermon over its content? Does any serious person argue that the preaching task is diminished according to the amount of words present? I could imagine someone pacing this particular sermon in many different ways giving it a wide variation in length.

    This is exactly the type of reasoning Luther would have abhorred. To Luther both the papists (no offense to the RC friends–I know you guys like being called papists anyway) and the enthusiasts (well, ok, offense for these folks–just kidding) harmed the average person by binding their salvation to the observance or non-observance of man-made rites. Excluded from these things are those things instituted by Christ and not men (while we might be free from a man-made rite we cannot be free from the external Word or Sacraments). Christians are completely free in Christ. However, this freedom is a freedom that is bound to works. Not to propitiate God’s favor, but for the sake of love. We are therefore bound even to the man-made boundaries that we have agreed upon, and not just free to “do whatever we want.” This is the purpose of agreement upon liturgy, agendas, lectionaries—the Christian does not *need* any of these things, but his neighbor does. A Christian who, out of freedom, removes themselves from these things might find one day that they are no longer a Christian (even if they still go to “church-club” each week to *only* hear about how to improve their marriage). The Christian submits to external forms for two reasons. First, he is not yet perfected and needs to be trained in the faith, and second, he wants his neighbor to become a Christian or to grow in faith (Vajta). As Luther said, “those who are Christians already…don’t need them. Nor do we need them. But they live for our sakes, that they might make us Christians.” This is the purpose of all external laws and ceremonies. Ceremonies and rules exist because of sin, and to remove them is to believe that one is no longer a sinner. They exist for the sake of love. Luther’s principle of love and regard for the common man made him the sworn enemy of arbitrary change, and he called for conformity (ibid.) The “rules” of specific, unnamed, church bodies in America (no rules, just right?) are a special topic for another time, but if one were to live in a church with a mandated agenda it would a) not be wrong and b) be a sin to deviate. It would also be a sin to comply if the agenda contradicted God’s Word, and grounds for finding another church body or leaving a country (if church and state are married in such a way).

    The church is a “mouth-house.” But to suggest that a shorter sermon, merely by virtue of being shorter, is a lesser sermon, is not a good idea. Anyone who would hold their pastor to such a standard needs to spend some serious time with 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. By serious, I mean they ought to go buy Lockwood’s commentary and study the Scripture—not just read the passage and let everyone know “what they feel it means to them.” Likewise, any pastor who thinks that it’s a good idea to dispense with sermons needs to do the same with 1 Corinthians 1 and reconsider the highest office in the church. I seriously doubt that Chaz (or any other Lutheran seminarian) is suggesting that preaching should cease.

    It would be wrong to submit a church that is used to 10 minute sermons to 40 minute sermons out of some sense of duty. The opposite may also true, but I’m sure that charity would prevail in all cases.

    The oddity in the church was during Luther’s time and prior when an exhortation in the vernacular happened only a few times a year if at all. Likewise, it was odd that our churches at one time were celebrating the Lord’s Supper only few times a year. I’m certain that Luther (being surprised that people interpreted his recommendation of frequency that way) would have had similar words about such infrequent communion as he had about infrequent preaching. And I’m sure that they had some other good reasons for this idea at one point. In some places in the world (maybe the frontier? it’d make an interesting study) it is difficult to get wine or clergy, and they do not want to substitute elements and have lay people preside. Most churches don’t have any good reason not to offer the Sacrament every Sunday. Of course, there is little reason why most churches shouldn’t have a prayer office or service of the Word every day. But requiring participation to all such offers of either gift would be antoher story.

    Again, sorry for the long post. But it’s lunch time, and this gave me opportunity to process. Cheers, and may God bless all of our discussions.

    oh, and leave the thief alone… that guy gets enough flak… 🙂

  12. I don’t know who you are Defensor, so I don’t know if you have any first-hand knowledge of what they do or do not teach at the seminary.
    Don’t you think your “most important” separation of sermon and Sacrament is a false one?
    Certainly, without the preached Word an integral part of the Divine Service is missing. But are you really willing to say that the Sacrament (leaving out the question of daily offices for now) is any less necessary to the Divine Service?

    Tim

  13. Tim, it is a good thing actually to read posts before responding to them.

    Where did anywhere suggest a separation between sermon and sacrament? Where did I suggest that the Sacrament is any less necessary?

    Reading…give it a try sometime.

  14. It’s fairly simple: if something is “most important” (your words: “THE main thing”; see, I can read!), then something else is “less important.” I’m simply asking whether any human–you, Luther, anyone–can make such a distinction.
    They are both needed for a _Divine_ Service, since they are both divine.
    You asked whether Luther would have conceived of having the daily offices without the preached Word; of course not. Is it any likelier that he would have conceived of the Divine Service/Mass apart from the Sacrament?

    Tim

  15. One more point (if anyone is still reading this): Luther’s comments emphasizing the preached Word above all have to be viewed in the light of his context. He was responding to Rome, which had little or no preaching in the common language of the people. So, Luther was trying to make the Word of God available to people again. This does not mean that Luther’s words are not important today, only that he might emphasize something different in a different context–as he did repeatedly (which is why people find seemingly contradictory statements in Luther’s work).

    Tim

  16. Tim, the answer is to be found in the Small Catechism. What is the chief thing in the Sacrament?

    And again, nowhere did I suggest that the Sacrament of the Altar was not necessary, important and what not.

    Is it LESS important than the preaching of the Word? YES, it is, but ONLY if anyone suggests that the Supper is not itself a proclamation of the Word.

    Seems it is you who is trying to distinguish where there is no need for such distinction.

    You are woefully underestimating and misunderstanding Luther if you suggest his passion for the preached Word is only due to his concerns with Rome at the time.

  17. Sorry, now it’s you who needs to read more carefully. I never even suggested that Luther’s concern for the preached Word was _only_ because of Rome, only that that might explain why he emphasized it so much in the earlier writings of LW 53.
    “Seems it is you who is trying to distinguish where there is no need for such distinction.”
    Read over the comments; who is the one who has repeatedly emphasized the sermon as the “THE main thing” and “the most important thing” in the Divine Service? It wasn’t me.

    I agree with you that the Sacrament is also a proclamation of the saving Gospel; does that not make your “relative importance” argument moot?
    I believe you’ve changed the terms of our debate. Prior to the last few posts, we were talking about the place of the preached Word in the service. This is a different issue than the place of the Word of God in general (printed, read, preached, or in the Sacrament). Obviously, the Word in general is the most important thing. So we agree on that. What we do not agree on (I think) is that the _preached_ Word is the most important presentation of that Word in the service. I think the sermon and the Sacrament are the two poles of the service, and there is something lacking in the Divine Service if both are not there.

    Tim

  18. Tim, your position is simply contrary to the Bible, the Lutheran Confessions and of course, the teachings of the chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther.

    But other than that, I’m sure you are right.

  19. Well, hey, as long as you back up your statements (you haven’t) and prove your position (you haven’t) everything’s good.
    In fact, I specifically looked at LW 53 (where Luther does speak of not reading the lessons without preaching), the Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles and the FC, and I’ve found nothing beyond the fact that the Word is the most important thing. That does not mean the preached Word, it means God’s Word in all the ways He has given it to us. It is not enough to claim to be the epitomic Lutheran and declare all others “simply contrary.” Which seems to be what you’re fond of doing on all questions of Lutheran doctrine.

    Tim

  20. While I have been a Lutheran of both the Missouri, then the Wisconsin (“Really Strict”) and then the Missouri Synod again, throughout most of my life; I am now, after having done various types of ministry, including being the associate pastor in a Methodist Church, given free sermons as a stand-in for other denominational ministers in my area,doing many Sunday “free gratis” services at several local nursing homes and much voluntary work in my community in alcohol, drug, teen age abstinence and recieveed a masters in Theology and in Psychology also doing church marrital counseling, I am still a Lutheran at heart. Unfortunately, neither the LCMS nor the WELS believe (even though) I have been confirmed, (at least) three times, that I can take communion until I allow one or the other to “reconfirm” me for a fourth time. I go to those same churches (of both synods) to this day, which I had gone to for collectively almost fifty years and all is fine, while I sit in the front pews, recite the liturgies (without the aid of the hymnal) sing the songs, usually from memory, give considerable donations (especially) for someone who is always considered an “outsider” I have told you all this to tell you, I put a large amount of time into my sermons for the nursing home people. I grew up believing I wanted to be a “preacher” not a Lutheran Minister or a Methodist Minister or a Baptist Minister or a Holy Roller Minister. I want to “preach” the WORD! In the form we read it in the KJV. With all of its thees and thys and thous. With the strange stories like the valley of the dry bones or the sad stories or even the stories of God’s love for the righteous, remember Moses? I like to tell the stories to the elderly people like we remember telling them to our children. I know this is true, because the Bible tells me so. Simply, with words that truly express meaning. I ask the elderly people to give me songs they would like to hear, rather than me just singing the ones I have always sung from The Lutheran Hymnal, Pew Edition. I am “preaching” not only to Lutheran, not only to Catholics, or Baptists, or some who have no faith. I am speaking to the people Jesus told us to preach to. As when Jesus sent the twelve forth in Matthew 10:5-7 commanding all of them to go, not to the Gentiles nor in the Samaritan’s cities. NO they should go where there were lost sheep, lost from the house of Israel. And Jesus added this, when ye are “preaching” say “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I do liturgies from memory and ask the people to give the response that “they” are accustomed to giving. Sometimes when I am preaching, I strike certain hearts with thoughts from the church of their youth. It is interesting when I or my wife or our teen age daughter witness one of them suddenly touch their self in the “sign of the cross” or see an elderly person close their eyes and begin to sway to the music, I am singing, with their hands in the air, or sometimes, when reciting parts of the liturgy from memory, someone I can only believe was Lutheran will join in and say it with me. often during the singing of great American Sprituals, such as “Amazing Grace” which I have not seen in the regular Lutheran Hymnals, I can tell some of the seniors who I feel may have been Baptist or some other even more “charismatic” denomination” really get —into it.” Remember, it also says, “raise a jubilant voice!”
    O.K. So what does all of this have to do with the question at hand?
    Perhaps, nothing. Perhaps,it is the answer each of you has been trying to say, without coming out and saying anything against the system Martin produced with the placing of those simple questions on the All Hallow’s Eve, in 1517. Or perhaps the same fact that few Lutherans or few Methodists, for that matter, are aware of. The fact, that on that fateful night in London, just over 200 years after Martin did his famous revolutionary act, when a discouraged John Wesley came to that local hall where Methodists college students gathered on Wednesday nights to give practice sermons and to debate church ideas. Wesley was mixed up trying to find the answer to many problems he was beginning to have with faith, church and belief in general. As the speaker began and progressed with a two hundred year old sermon. Luther’s sermon on Justification by Faith, From Romans, Wesly began to “feel a new movement in his heart.” By the time the “LONG” sermon from Luther was over, John Wesley went running home, saying, “I must tell Charles,” his brother. That very day John Wesley was moved to break from the English Church and begin the Methodist movement.
    Yes, one can make a good point in a very few words. Lincoln did! Only around two hundred and sixty words, yet “The Gettysburg Address” is to this day maybe, the most quoted presidential address ever.
    Many can make a great point, only if they have huge video screens behind them. One of the “wonders” of our modern computer and technocracy age. Some can make powerful “LONG” oratories and really say very litte.
    Bottom line!!!!! It just doesn’t matter, in the end.
    The important thing is did the minister really speak from his heart, did he (or in some churches she) I know that is a different question — get the message over to the listener? Or was it simply so many words typed out or perhaps even brought in from some site on the net?
    Was it a true message as God intended it? Or did the minister “soften” the messagge in fear that it might anger a certain part of the congregation. If he is afraid that saying this or that is “WRONG!” He is certainly not telling the Word the way it is intended to be told.
    God never said, “Thou shalt not (unless). God always commanded, “Thou Shalt not, period.
    Let us as Christians, first, Lutherasn, second, not be lured into the idea that a sermon must be ten or fifteen or twenty minutes of the sermon or even the largest part of the sermon. Rather, listen closely to the sermoon. First listen to hear the basic verses it comes from. Listen to the intent of those verses and see if the pastor is telling you whether that sin, or that error, by the old faithful, is seen in today’s society and if the minister is really trying to say “Thou shalt not” do that sin. If he is, he is probably walking on thin ice in most of today’s congregations, but he is leading the way he should be leading the “flock!”.

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